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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Tameside's Metrolink Must Be Protected

Friday, 18 February 2022


Last month we received the troubling news that, as part of the development of the new High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) line from Crewe to Manchester, there is a very real possibility that the Metrolink service to Ashton-under-Lyne could be suspended. While the plan estimates that this would last up to two years, given the nature of such major infrastructure projects I suspect that it could actually end up being far longer than this.

How has this situation come about? As part of the latest plans introduced to Parliament, the current Metrolink stop underneath Manchester Piccadilly would be replaced by a new and enlarged station within the proposed HS2 hub. This would involve the creation of a temporary track and “turn back” at Piccadilly, severing the New Islington to Ashton-under-Lyne line from the rest of the Metrolink network until the works are completed and the new tracks are hooked up. All tram services on the line would be replaced by buses running between Piccadilly Gardens and Ashton-under-Lyne for the duration of the work.

I am angry and dismayed at these plans for a number of reasons. I’ve written in the past about the government and other national bodies going forward with plans without consulting with, or even notifying, the areas that will be affected. Unfortunately that has been the case here. Members and officers in Tameside Council - including myself - were not informed about what these plans would mean for the Metrolink until a week before they were introduced in Parliament.

The impact of the closure of the Ashton-under-Lyne line on Tameside is also likely to be catastrophic. Since it opened in the borough in 2013, the Metrolink route has delivered a staggering number of economic, social and environmental benefits. This includes a major reduction in carbon emissions by giving people the choice to leave their car at home, as well as linking commuters – particularly those in our more deprived communities - up to new opportunities for employment, further education and healthcare.

At a time where the regional inequalities in England have found themselves back at the top of the political agenda this, quite frankly, is a disgraceful way to run a major infrastructure project. Instead of power being devolved to local communities, we have been kept in the dark. Instead of Levelling Up, we face having a vital catalyst for economic investment and inclusive growth stripped away from us.

 

I have long been a supporter of HS2. I truly believe that, if swiftly and effectively rolled out, its impact in the North of England could be nothing short of transformative. But as it stands at the moment, Tameside seems to be in the position of enjoying no real benefit from HS2 while suffering all of the pain of its construction.

That’s why I’m supporting an amendment to the bill currently going through Parliament, tabled by local MP for Denton and Reddish Andrew Gwynne, calling for the Metrolink line between Ashton-under-Lyne and New Islington to be kept open during the construction period. While this will require the construction of a new depot at Ashton Moss and means that commuters will have to catch a tram at New Islington instead of Piccadilly, I believe that it is a compromise that balances the need to construct HS2 while keeping disruption of the Metrolink service to a minimum.

The government is currently running a consultation on the impact of HS2, and I would encourage all of you to visit their website here and have your say before it closes on 31 March. I will continue to work closely with Transport for Greater Manchester, HS2 Limited, the government and local residents and MPs to ensure that we get the best possible transport deal for Tameside as we look to build back better, fairer and greener.


 

Posted by: Executive Leader